I know fall has technically just started, but I’m feeling it full force in the mornings. We are entering the dark half of the year, when light levels are lowest north of the equator. Light levels affect our melatonin production. In darkness, we produce more, making us sluggish and sleepy. It’s harder to get up, and once home at the end of the day, harder to go out.
When I worked in a corporate cubicle and travelled there by subway, I used to feel anxiety about the impending change of seasons as early as July 31st. Can you relate to what I’m talking about? I was never diagnosed, but I figured I had a solid case of SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder. In the mid-90’s, November in Toronto was in various shades of sombre gray – the depressing, not titillating kind. I committed to leaving the city, which I did for nine years.
During that time I was able to shift to work from home in a light-filled space, and with more flexibility in schedule to get outside in natural light, I now have nowhere near the anxiety I used to fear. It hasn’t turned into a love of winter, but I’m now able to appreciate the sun bouncing off the snow and the afternoon glow that penetrates further into my office.
1. Get enough sleep
Most people need between 7 and 9 hours per night. If you’re like me and suffer from “just one more thing” syndrome which prevents you from getting to bed early enough, consider setting an alarm for “bedtime”. With enough sleep and a consistent routine, you will likely not need a wake-up alarm in the morning. Here’s what the National Sleep Foundation has to say about how much sleep is ideal.
2. Spend time outside each day
If it’s not your natural urge to be outside in cold weather, you’ll want to find ways to boost your exposure to daylight. Walk part of the way to work, take part in an outdoor winter sport, park a little further from the mall entrance. If that’s difficult, consider using a now-widely available light lamp to amp up (ooh, catch that?) the quality and number of rays you’re receiving. If you’re considering purchasing one, you’ll want to read this list of things to consider.
3. Respect your energy levels
It takes more time and energy just getting around in cold winter, so it pays to be more selective in what you choose to invest your time and energy. I will be cutting back on activities which take me out in the evening when I would rather be winding down the day.
4. Supplement your Vitamin D
Even with natural light and a healthy diet, you are likely not getting enough Vitamin D, a key ingredient for our bodies for fighting inflammation and for repair. In fact, since the precursor to Vitamin D is synthesized on your skin, which requires your skin to be exposed to the sun when it is higher than 31.5 degrees in the sky (according to Dr. Michael Hollick), you can’t make it yourself in a good chunk of the year. Here is a guide to recommended dosing from the Mayo Clinic.
5. Limit carbohydrates and sugar
Watch the ratio of carbs to other foods. Carbs can make you sleepy and prone to talking yourself out of the exercise that will boost your endorphins and therefore your energy.
6. Dress warmly
It took moving to Montreal for me to concede that it was better to dress warmly than try to stay stylish in the cold. Good thing that coincided with the advent of down coats becoming fashionable and affordable, though I confess to having started with head-to-toe sheepskin. I had to wait for a bus to work, and nothing blocked the wind like that coat. If you are feeling cold, your body is under stress, you think less clearly and are ultimately less productive, never mind the fact feeling frozen is horribly uncomfortable.
7. Incorporate colour
Checking out stores for fall clothing and you’ll see the palette is decidedly more sombre, but who says your wardrobe has to be? I’ve had persimmon orange and radiant orchid down coats and I swear they energize not only me, but the people I meet. It’s as if your clothes are smiling. If you have a dark winter coat, add some pizzazz with a bright scarf and toque!
How do you keep your spirits up through fall and winter? I’d love to hear what you do.
Note: The information on this site is offered as an information resource only. It should not be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment.
This post was originally published on www.streamlife.ca and has been updated.